Situational Awareness – more than ‘dots on a screen’

Dirk Maclean speaking at Inaugural Sir James Power Air Power Seminar

Inaugural Sir James Rowland Air Power Seminar – Dirk Maclean speaking.

This talk is a response to the announcement in the 2016 Defence White Paper that up to 900 new positions would be created with the aim of improving Australia’s situational awareness. This is understood mostly as a technical challenge, about networks and interoperability, but here it is argued that the purpose of SA is to support sound situational understanding, which in turn drives good decision making. Unless it does so, SA is of no value whatsoever. Understanding, however, is a human function, not a technical one. It makes sense therefore, that large scale investments into SA should be appropriately matched with developing human capabilities for understanding situations and making good decisions. The talk gives some examples of where SA has not been sufficient in and of itself, and where catastrophic errors were made on the basis of a poor understanding of the situation, the October 2015 airstrike on the MSF Trauma Centre in Kunduz, Afghanistan being a case in point.

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